”That's why I have to chop the people up first” - John
Jason Franks is back with a bigger and more impactful Kagemono then ever. Contained in the mammoth publication are 22 completely new stories and 2 views on how to define horror, more on those later. As ever with Kagemono, Flowers and Skulls asks the reader to re-interpret their definitions of what constitutes horror and how the genre can be used to make some very salient points. Besides which we get for the first time ever in the series a zombie story, more on that later as well, and the usual dark delights that have made the Kagemono series must have publications for Downunder, dare I say, and International dark genre fans. If you haven't dialled into Kagemono yet then you are not the horror fan you think you are. Let's break it down.
Right from the sensational cover by Nicholas Hunter you know you are in for a treat with volume three of this excellent comic series. Jason Franks takes a leading role in the stories in Flowers and Skulls but also ensures there is ample space for other Writers and a host of Artists presenting a whole bunch of styles. As ever the graphic novel is innovative, throws unexpected curve balls at the Reader, and never bogs itself down. There is not a single weak link here and you'll find yourself reading the individual stories more than once as there's a lot to be taken from the book.
Technically we're talking black and white panels with styles ranging from Japanese anime to Australian post modernism. Actually I just coined the whole “Australian post modernism” thing to try and encapsulated the explosion over the past few years of the comic book art form in this Country. For those unaware modern technology has allowed an expansion in independent publication leading to some of the more innovative and thought provoking comics that you are ever likely to run across. Kagemono leads the way in redefining what the medium can achieve and how it can be used to tell a story, or get across a concept, that would not have been attempted by mainstream Publishers previously. Hence “post modernism”, suck it up I'm using it.
In terms of stories, and each reader is going to have his/her favourites, I'm putting my hand up and going on record as saying there are a number of inclusions in Flowers and Skulls that are going to be viewed as classics in coming years. Big call, but hey I'm on a roll here today with the grandiose proclamations. Kicking off the book is one of the better zombie stories you are ever likely to read in Daddy's Girl (story Russell Lissau, art mpMann). Last time I reviewed a Kagemono release I mentioned that Jason Franks had perhaps been giving the zombie thing a wide berth due to there not being a whole lot more to say on the matter. Naturally Franks has left me with egg on my face, as Daddy's Girl takes an idea Romero hinted at and gives it an impactful central focus. Flowers and Skulls is worth investing in for this story alone kids, best zombie story since The Walking Dead enthralled us all.
As they say on the commercials folks, but wait that's not all. Jen Breach and Trevor Wood combine their talents to give us an update on James Herbert circa The Fog. Sorry trying to avoid spoilers here so some of the references may be slightly obtuse for some readers, grin and bare it kids. Desert Leviathan (Jason Franks and Leigh Kuilboer) shows the dangers of becoming obsessed with something to the detriment of every thing else. Do you become what you crave? While finally Memorial Soup, script Jason Franks art Harry Purnell, asks who is the most dangerous species in the galaxy. Any number of other stories could have been highlighted, but lets avoiding overly boring everyone by listing them all, read the graphic novel and form your own opinion.
As well as the bumper crop of stories, did I mention you get 22 new ones in Flowers and Skulls, there are also two editorials that attempt to define the dark genre. mpMann is first up to the plate and admits to not being a real horror fan, always a danger when people from outside the genre attempt to define something that genre practitioners find illusive to pin down. The Writer pays due homage to Nietzsche's Apollonian v Dionysian argument, something Stephen King quite eloquently covered previously, order v chaos, but seems to not have realise the “monster” can also be a metaphoric symbol. Horror as a genre is such a diverse animal that simply applying some shoot from the hip ideas doesn't overly do it much service. It's the underlying themes that give the dark genre it's power to be subversive, for example the referenced Mary Shelley book, besides defining an iconic monster also questions whether man should aspire to being God. A second editorial by Jason Franks throws off the attempt at some sort of high brow hybrid definition to question who actually consumes horror and what exactly constitutes the monsters contained within the genre. My own definition? - horror is when your own monsters get you.
So I've managed to overstay my welcome yet again, have left a treat for Jason Franks for Readers to find on their own, lets wrap this one. Kagemono: Flowers and Skulls builds on previous issues in the franchise to give a diverse range of stories that asks the Reader to perhaps redefine how they view horror, and what constitutes horror. The writing is of an excellent standard and the artwork is diverse enough to satisfy most, if not all, comic fans. As usual Jason Franks presents a deeply subversive work that not only attacks comfortable notions of society but also questions those who believe they are outside civilisation's bulwark. Regardless of opinion, and the book is likely to generate some heated debate, I would challenge any reader to not be entertained by Flowers and Skulls. Ultimately I guess entertainment is the measure of a graphic novel, though Jason Franks is going to leave even the most cynical teen feeling slightly uneasy after they have read the book. Full recommendation, absolutely loved Flowers and Skulls.
For those who haven't worked out we have a links section, Black Glass Press have a web presence right here. You can purchase Kagemono: Flowers and Skulls for the excellent price of $16.50 direct from the site, and of course previous issues of Kagemono for those playing catch up.
ScaryMinds Rates this read as ...br> br> Jason Franks redefines the concept of horror yet again while entertaining the reader.